By now it’s common knowledge that businesses have to recycle fluorescent lamps and other mercury-containing items. What you may not know, however, is how these laws came to be, why they’re so important and how you can follow them.
When Did Lamp Recycling Laws Begin?
Mercury containing lamps are federally regulated under the “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act” (RCRA) and are managed under the Universal Waste Rule. In 1999, a regulation was enacted that added mercury-containing bulbs as a new category under the already existing Universal Waste Rule. Mercury-containing lamps are managed under both federal and state regulations. Recycling lamps is mandatory in all 50 states and a company may be fined up to $25,000 per occurrence for throwing lamps in the trash. Regulations for lamp recycling vary from state to state, so it’s important to understand state regulations, as well as the national universal waste rule. Since we’re in Illinois, we’re only going to give detailed information about the lamp recycling laws here. If you’d like more information about the laws in your state, head over to lamprecycle.org.
Illinois Lamp Recycling Laws
Illinois was one of the first states on the lamp recycling scene, thanks in large part to EverLights. On April 2, 1998, the Illinois Pollution Control Board amended the Illinois Universal Waste Rule to cover lamps that meet the definition of hazardous waste. Wastes in this special category of hazardous waste are called “universal” because they are broadly generated. Pesticides, thermostats and batteries also can be classified as universal wastes.
Why is Lamp Recycling Important?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does a great job describing why lamp recycling is so crucial.
- Recycling prevents the release of mercury into the environment. Fluorescent and other mercury-containing bulbs often break when thrown into a dumpster, trash can or compactor, or when they end up in a landfill or incinerator. To prevent the release of mercury, these bulbs should be taken to a recycler before they break. Recyclers recover the mercury and other components for reuse.
- Other materials in the bulbs get reused. Recycling CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs allows the reuse of the glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights. Virtually all components of a fluorescent bulb, including metal end caps, glass tubing, and phosphor powder, can be separated and recycled. Recyclers often sell the metallic portions as scrap metal. The recycled glass can be remanufactured into other glass products. The mercury can be recycled into new fluorescent lamps and other mercury-containing devices.
- RCRA regulations require many businesses to recycle mercury-containing bulbs.
Label Waste Properly
Your waste lamps must be categorized as one of the following three options:
Can I Crush My Lamps?
While lamp crushing is legal, EverLights does not support the practice of crushing lamps unless the individual is certified to do so. In order to guarantee the safety of the individual crushing the lamps, it’s important that he or she knows all the proper safety procedures.
What If I Choose not to Recycle My Lamps?
As is the case with any law, not following the Universal Waste Rule can have some pretty serious consequences. If your company is caught not recycling fluorescent lamps, it can be fined up to $25,000, per occurrence. In these tough economic times, it’s more important than ever to make sure your company is following the rules so it can use that money elsewhere.
Lamp Recycling Today
Lamp recycling regulations are always being updated and improved. As new styles of lights and other waste are produced, we have to find ways to properly handle them. EverLights continues to be a leader in addressing these environmental concerns at the local, state and national levels. Someone has to make sure the environment stays safe from potential hazards, and we’re honored to play such a big role in that movement.
Our lamp recycling services include bulk pick-ups, on site drop-offs and an easy to use mail-in program. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call us at (877) 93-9873 or visit our website. We’re always happy to help!